Wednesday, January 20, 2010


Waxing Crescent phase of the moon as seen during Spring.

I finally decided to visit the astronomical observatory at my university today and was thankfully reminded me what the night sky, which I have neglected for the longest time, meant to me.

Ever since I was a kid, there's always something about the night skies and its stars that attracted me. The wonderful ways the stars twinkle and form numerous patterns that I used to group into my own constellations is just tremendously amusing to me... although I didn't exactly see too many real stars.

See, growing up in a big city in China like Shenzhen during the 90s doesn't exactly allow you to see many stars, or even anything in the night sky for the matter. Ironically, I think it's probably because of this that I developed a strange attraction to the stars, based not on from what I see, but on something constructed from things that I can gather from science encyclopedias, TV programs, movies and anime shows. In other words, I was attracted to them because I believed them to be something wonderful and fantastical; my attraction to the heavens was based on faith rather than substance.

The first time that I looked up during the night and saw a sky filled with nothing but stars, very understandably, I was flabbergasted, as this was almost like an experience that reaffirmed my faith. Constellations appeared, the stars rose and set and behind everything was the vast strip of billions of stars called the Milky Way(I knew all this from the illustrated scientific encyclopedias I've read). Some stars were brighter than others, some were darker, some twinkled faster, others slower. To be seeing something that you've always believed to be true, but never saw in real life like this was was nothing less than a miracle for me.

As time went on, however, and I started to slowly get used to the night sky above west coast Canada, the stars that was once a fascination for me also seemed much less interesting. As ironical as it is, the more accessible the stars are in reality, the less interesting they were to me. Eventually, the night sky full of stars became the status quo and my interest have all but disappeared. Fortunately, though my interest in real stars have waned, my general interest in the field of science and technology never quite went away. 

I guess this must have been the reason why I decided to check out the astronomy today despite the terrible weather and freezing temperatures. As I looked up through the telescope into the night sky, my eyes saw things that I've never seen in real life before. Nebulae, open clusters, moon's surface, double clusters Mars' polar ice caps, Sirius -- all of them I knew from the books and news that I've read over the years but have never seen with my owns eyes before -- appeared in front of my eyes. This time however, my awe is no long based on faith alone, for this time, I was able to match the knowledge that I have collected and analyzed with real substantial data. I can now formulate theories based on what I already know and test them against observable data to see if they correspond with reality. 

At the end of the day, I guess the real fascination still lies within the realm of faith, since even though I can't give any specific reasons, I still think Orion is the most amazing constellation in the night sky. Hey, it's a frickin' celestial warrior hunter going after the biggest whale the world has ever seen! What more can you ask? 

Have a nice day.

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